Salwa Zeidan gallery in Abu Dhabi

How Salwa Zeidan has been shaping the Abu Dhabi art scene for more than 20 years Discuss this article

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In April this year, Salwa Zeidan Gallery turned 21 – not months, but years. A grand event was thrown in the courtyard of The Collection, St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort in its honour. For 21 years, the gallery has been shaping the nation’s art scene. The key to its survival is its owner Salwa’s unique foresight and ability to spot a rising art star.

Vanja Rontini, gallery manager, explains, ‘Salwa Zeidan was the very first art gallery in Abu Dhabi and indeed the first in the UAE. Our gallery has seen this country grow into the artistic force that it is today, and it is exciting to have been on the forefront of Abu Dhabi’s growing art scene.’ Vanja adds, ‘Salwa actively participated in shaping the art scene of the Emirates by exhibiting and collaborating with the most notable UAE artists, so we symbolically named the corresponding exhibit “Shaping Scenes”.’

Salwa recognised the artistic promise of the Emirates very early on. Vanja explains, ‘Salwa started curating shows in Abu Dhabi in the late ’80s, long before there was any tangible art scene. Ever since, she has been dedicated to nurturing the embryonic art scene of the UAE and bring more amazing artists into the picture. Salwa always insisted on staying in Abu Dhabi, even as Dubai’s art scene emerged. It’s as though she knew back then that Abu Dhabi would become the leading cultural district of the region and perhaps even the world.’

Salwa has always had a keen eye for talent and has spotted several superstars of the art world very early on. She launched the career of artist Mohammed Kazem with a solo show in 1994. Fatema Al Mazrouie and Rahul Dutta now exhibit internationally, but Salwa found them first and they were regular exhibitors in her gallery.
If you are keen on visiting the place that brought the art world to the United Arab Emirates, visit Salwa Zeidan Gallery. From June 10, you can view the works of the well-known Chinese-Dutch artist Zhuang Hong Yi and other talented artists that are adding to the capital’s international artistic landscape.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-7.30pm; Sat 2pm-8pm. Salwa Zeidan Gallery, The Collection, St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, www.salwazeidangallery.com (02 666 9656).

Portrait of an art gallery: Salwa Zeidan
Salwa Zeidan Gallery opened in 1994 and was the first art gallery to open in the capital. The gallery represents both well-established and emerging artists from all over the world. It provides artists with space to showcase their work in the Middle East’s capital of art and culture: Abu Dhabi. The gallery promotes a dizzying array of media from paintings, photography and sculptures to installation and performance art. All the artworks selected by the gallery have two common traits: minimalistic vision and sensibility. Every artist and artwork is personally selected by Salwa Zeidan to ensure that every piece strikes an emotional chord with viewers rather than being simply commercial or mechanical. Salwa is a painter and sculptor and being an artist herself helps her as a gallery curator.
In addition to nurturing local talent, the gallery has become renowned for its selective representation of many of the region’s most prominent artists, many of whom have seen their artwork successfully auctioned at Christie’s and Sotheby’s.

What’s hanging on Salwa’s walls right now?
At Salwa Zeidan Gallery, you’ll find Zhuang Hong Yi’s unique, three dimensional artworks, which combine acrylic and hand-made rice paper on canvas. Zhuang’s work is collected by royals, celebrities and other dignitaries, with the King of Morocco, the Emir and the Prime Minister of Qatar, as well as many Hollywood celebrities being known collectors. One of Zhuang’s pieces hangs in Queen Elizabeth’s private airport lounge in London. Zhuang’s expressive impasto strokes are unconfined. His vibrant coloured paint drips down the canvas and seeps through rice paper flowers. The three-dimensionality of his work almost renders his paintings as sculptures. He is sometimes referred to as the ‘Monet of China’ as his style is impressionistic and usually depicts nature. His artworks are meditations on colour, nature and form.

By Liz Totton
Time Out Abu Dhabi,

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